Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Change From Within Or Make A Stand?

Baroness Warsi has resigned from the British government today, saying that its position with regard to Gaza and Israel is "morally indefensible".

Inevitably the government, in the form of George Osborne, promptly tried to rubbish her, calling it an "unnecessary decision". The implication, argued on local radio, is that she should have remained where she had influence and could have made a difference, rather than resigning on principle.

It is, I think, a good question: when should one stay put, in order  to change things from the inside, theoretically from a position of influence, and when should one make a stand, pull out, and speak freely.

In a cabinet as wealthy, elitist, and white, as the current UK cabinet, I do have to wonder how much influence Baroness Warsi actually had. Committees, which essentially is what the cabinet is, have their own tried and trusted ways of keeping dissident voices in their place.

I watched an interview with Baroness Warsi on Channel4 News today and was impressed by her steadiness and firmness. It was clear that she has spent several weeks trying to get the UK government to engage more robustly with Israel, and was getting nowhere. As she put it, "George Osborne is a very good friend of the Israeli government".

It seems to me that the Israeli government has several 'very good friends' in high places in western governments and media, leading to a great deal of distortion in reporting and commentary. It is a pity that George Osborne, in particular, cannot be bothered to spread his friendship more to those suffering from poverty and disability within these British Isles.

In the case of Baroness Warsi, I do believe that she made the right decision. She seems to have tried to make a difference from within, not been able to achieve enough, and has therefore followed her conscience and resigned.

As a general rule though, I do also believe that you have to do things that way round. If some community or organisation is worth being a part of, then you have to be willing to work with the people within it, to make your points and to listen to other views.

Most communities and organisations which are worthwhile inevitably fall short of their own ideals - because they are composed of fallible human beings trying to work together. To pull out of something worthwhile because you do not get your own way over something has to be a last resort - what I term "the nuclear option". In other words, you do everything in your power to avoid it, but it is always there in reserve. If something is being done which is fundamentally inconsistent with what you believe to be right and true then you have to act with integrity and decency.

The impression I got today is that Baroness Warsi is a person of integrity and decency and I hope she is able to find other outlets for her talents now she has left government (at least the ministerial part of it).


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